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ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY DEBATES ASTEROID THREAT

Last Updated on Thursday, 06 May 2010 19:48
Published on Thursday, 24 February 2005 00:00


Action being taken by the UK government, the United Nations and the European Space Agency to further our understanding of the hazard posed by near Earth objects (NEOs) in space are on the agenda at Royal Astronomical Society meetings in London on Friday 14 December. The meetings are open and media representatives are cordially invited. (For details of times and location see below.)


Dr Colin Hicks, Director of the British National Space Centre, will talk about the UK government's policy on NEOs. In 2000, the UK government set up a Task Force to consider the threat from potentially-hazardous NEOs. Its detailed report (available on-line at http://www.nearearthobjects.co.uk/) made 14 recommendations for government action.

Dr Hans Haubold, Director of the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs in Vienna, will discuss the past and future involvement of the United Nations. The NEO hazard is a global problem, requiring international as well as national responses. The first step is to map the orbits of the larger asteroids in the solar system. This can be done using quite modest telescopes, so smaller countries can make vital contributions.

Dr Marcello Coradini, Coordinator of Solar System Missions at the European Space Agency's headquarters in Paris, will explain ESA¹s plans for space missions to study the physical nature of asteroids and comets. NASA already has several such spacecraft either on the way or planned for launch within the next few years. ESA's Rosetta mission, the first designed to go into orbit around a comet, is scheduled for launch in 2003.

Other contributors will describe how UK astronomers and space researchers plan to become involved with the international Spaceguard programme, how the NEO impact hazard ranks against other large-scale potential disasters (such as nuclear power station accidents), and how the media deal with this topic.

Meeting co-organiser, Dr Duncan Steel said, " This is astronomy 'close to home'. Only recently has the importance of comets and asteroids to our own planet been recognised. But quite apart from potential impact catastrophes, NEOs are worlds in their own right. Studying them is becoming a central feature of solar system exploration. The next few years promise a wealth of interesting information on asteroids and comets."

 PROGRAMME

Discussion meeting in the GEOLOGICAL SOCIETY LECTURE THEATRE,  BURLINGTON HOUSE, Piccadilly, London W1

10:30 Introductory comments and overview: Duncan Steel

10:45 Alan Fitzsimmons (Queen's University, Belfast) Observing NEOs with UK-supported ground-based telescopes

11:10 Peter Wheatley (University of Leicester) NEOs in the UK Wide-field Automated Survey Programe (WASP)

11:25 John Zarnecki (Open University) NEO-related Research at the Open University

11:45 Sarah Dunkin (Rutherford Appleton Laboratory) Inner-Earth NEO searches using BepiColombo

12:00 Wyn Evans (University of Oxford) GAIA: A Census of the Solar System

12:20 Phil Palmer (University of Surrey) Research at Surrey University for a NEO mission: Affordable Access for Science in Space

12:40 Apostolos Christou (Armagh Observatory) Nearer than the Moon: dynamics and future opportunities for NEO missions

13:00 - 14:00 Lunch break

14:00 Nigel Holloway (Spaceguard UK) NEO Impacts: Risk Perceptions and Realities

14:20 Benny Peiser (Liverpool John Moores University) Asteroid Scares: Near-Earth Objects and the Media

14:35 Iain Gilmour (Open University) The ESF-Impact programme: current objectives and future directions

14:55 Colin Hicks (Director, British National Space Centre) Government Policy and Future Plans on NEOs

15:20 Concluding remarks: Mark Bailey

15:30 - 16:00 Break and CHANGE OF VENUE

16:00 - 18:00 RAS monthly Astronomy and Geophysics meeting at the SCIENTIFIC SOCIETIES' LECTURE THEATRE,SAVILE ROW, London W1 (entrance in New Burlington Place)

approx. 17.15 Hans Haubold (Director, UN Office for Outer Space Affairs, Vienna) United Nations Initiatives on NEOs

approx. 17. 35 Marcello Coradini (Coordinator, Solar System Missions, ESA) ESA's contribution to the understanding of NEOs and their related problems

MORE INFORMATION, INTERVIEWS

For comment, general information about the meetings, or to get in touch with individual speakers, contact the meeting organisers:

Dr Duncan Steel Joule Physics Laboratory University of Salford Greater Manchester, M5 4WT Phone: 0161 295 3981 Fax: 0161 295 5147 Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  Mobile phone contact for Thursday and Friday: 07967 949 342

 Professor Mark Bailey Armagh Observatory College Hill Armagh BT61 9DG, Phone: 028 3752 2928 Fax: 028 3752 7174 Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  Mobile phone contact for Thursday and Friday: 07765 256 346

 

Issued by:
Dr Jacqueline Mitton (RAS Press Officer)
Phone: +44 ((0)1223) 564914
Mobile phone on meeting day: 07770 386133
Fax: +44 ((0)1223) 572892
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Contacts for this release: Dr Duncan Steel (University of Salford)
Phone: 0161 295 3981
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Mobile phone on 13 and 14 December: 07967 949 342 

Professor Mark Bailey (Armagh Observatory)
Phone: 028 3752 2928
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Mobile phone on 13 and 14 December: 07765 256 346